Mt 18: 15-20
“If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one. But if you are not listened to, take one or two others along with you, so that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.
Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.”
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.
Respect the Other
The Gospel has both ecclesial and spiritual dimensions to it, but also a personal and social side. Jesus instructs the disciples, “If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault….” Jesus advocates a very straightforward behavior with respect to communication and reconciliation: tell the person directly, though obviously we can presume with all the sensitivity that charity demands.
Sounds manageable, but from our experience we know it’s not simple. Who among us finds it easy to be that straightforward with another? Or, who is good at conflict resolution? Though we know honesty in communication can be timely and reconciling, it also can be quite emotionally delicate, complex, and even become messy at times. It takes sensitivity, experience, and some degree of prayer and courage.
Understandably, if all this is beyond our capacity, at least Jesus’ command to “go (to the person) and point out the fault,” implies restraint of certain other behaviors which generally are more manageable for us—restraint from gossiping, restraint from avoidance of the person, and restraint from hiding behind innuendo. Resisting these behaviors seems consistent with the charity and compassion of the Sermon on the Mount.
Is there anyone with whom we could be more reconciled, by speaking with her/him directly? And, if that is too difficult or untimely, is less gossiping, avoidance, and/or innuendo possible?
—Fr. Richard Baumann, SJ, is a regional vocation director for the Midwest Jesuits.
Blessed God, how powerful is the gift of speech you have given to us. May we use it well—not to weaken others, or label them, or leave them burdened with self-doubt. Rather, let us praise and strengthen others and, if needed, challenge them, though with fitting sensitivity. Amen.
—Fr. Richard Baumann, SJ